By CARLOS A. MORENO
An ambulante is a Spanish term for a street vendor, a go-getter who doesn’t wait for work but is an ambitious, small-scale entrepreneur. That seems like an accurate description of Radio Ambulante, a small radio program and podcast that looked to the crowd to continue to tell unheard stories about Latin America.
The show launched in 2012 two months after a Kickstarter campaign to raise $46,000. Since then the show has gone from 2,000 monthly listeners to 100,000 monthly listeners who can hear versions of the show in English and Spanish.
Last week Radio Ambulante received the Gabriel García Márquez Journalism Prize in the innovation category, an annual award for journalists and media organizations that embody the ideals of the famous Latin American writer. Award ceremonies were held in Medellin, Colombia.
“It’s a validation of our efforts, and an inspiration to continue pushing ourselves to do more and do better,” the show’s executive director Carolina Guerrero told the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship program on Thursday.
Radio Ambulante currently runs on a non-profit, contribution based business model, so prize money received from the award will go directly back into the program, she said.
A 2015 JSK Fellow at Stanford University, Guerrero wants to solve “the problem of inequality of access and democratizing the kinds of stories being told across the region.”
While at Stanford she plans to focus on ways radio journalists can harness new technologies to spread information.
Guerrero created the show that’s been called This American Life for Latin America with her husband, a novelist and the show’s host Daniel Alarcón. Radio Ambulante is based at KQED in San Francisco and can be considered in the same vein as similar long form journalism programs that tap into a human element like RadioLab, This American Life and Snap Judgment.
Two-thirds of Radio Ambulante’s audience is in the United States and one-third is scattered across the Spanish speaking world. In the future Guerrero and Alarcón hope to create partnerships with Latin American radio stations and reach parts of Brazil and the Caribbean.
Here is one of my favorite stories from Radio Ambulante:
About the same time Radio Ambulante received its journalism prize, on the other side of San Francisco Bay in Oakland, Snap Judgment closed its 30-day crowdfunding campaign, raising $208,000, much more than the $150,000 goal.
Like Radio Ambulante, Snap Judgement will host a live show in San Francisc. The title? “Outsiders: Stories of People Who Skirt Around the Edges.”
Carlos A. Moreno is the Latin American correspondent for throughthecracks.com, a blog about crowdfunding for journalism startups, where this post first appeared.